What Happens if the Person Picking Your Brain is Already a Paying Client?

January 5, 2012 by Hilary Brooks
Business Development

Pick Your BrainA lot of us have seen this article on Forbes making its round on the various social media platforms: No You Can’t Pick My Brain. It Costs Too Much.

But – what happens if the person picking your brain is already a paying client?

Most small business owners or consultants would agree – we give entirely too much information away for free. For me, a lot of times this occurs with current clients who I’ve either done a website for or whom I provide virtual assistant services to, and it’s a regular occurrence – ‘how do I do this’ or ‘where do I go to do that’ or ‘what do you think about this…’.

An emailed response can take anywhere from a couple of seconds, to a couple of minutes or more…  When it’s a current client, where do you draw the line between good customer service and having your knowledge taken advantage of? This can be a particularly sensitive situation because the client may feel you ‘owe’ it to them since they do business with you. For some industries (especially the web design and development field), this is lovingly referred to as “scope creep”.

How can you prevent this from happening?

I have two ways that I use to minimize this:

  1. Have clear, thorough contracts. Yes, this is a pain and can turn some potential clients off, but it is really for your own protection. Make sure to outline what is included and what is not include, or if an hourly based consultant, make sure to include that consultations and questions via email are billable items. I would also recommend setting a minimum or rounding to the nearest increment of 15/30 minutes. An email may only take a few moments to answer, but the time and money you’ve invested to increase your knowledge is worth much more.
  2. Don’t start. That’s right – don’t start giving your knowledge away for free, or letting that scope creep, creep. If you do, it sets an expectation and assumption that you will continue to do so, and when you don’t, the client may be feeling as if you’re taking something away and may value your service less, since they are used to receiving the ‘freebies’.

Here are some other resources that might help you manage already paying clients that want to pick your brain or to prevent scope creep. Please note, some of these are industry specific, but the concepts can still be applied to most industries.

How do you manage your clients when the want to pick your brain?

Image: flickr

Hilary Brooks

Hilary Brooks is President, CEO of A Virtual Edge, a full-service virtual assistant company, and Owner of freelance web design company Small Biz Web Whiz. Hilary and her team offer a wide variety of services to busy entrepreneurs, speakers, coaches, and bloggers, providing the office and creative support they need to succeed without all the hassles of hiring a traditional employee.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Peggy Carlaw June 12, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Good points, all, Hilary. I remember when I was first starting my consulting practice a number of years ago, I went to a seminar on being a successful consultant conducted by a woman who had been in the business a number of years. After she spoke, I asked, “How can I let my clients know I can help them without giving away too much information?’ I’ll never forget her response. She said, “You’ll find that people will pay you for your advice and won’t take it. What makes you think they’ll do it for free?” I got over my fear of giving too much information and now just give it freely. I think it helps me win business because I can paint a clear picture of the outcome they’ll be getting.

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